A Room of One’s Own 

“…a woman must have money and room of her own if she is to write fiction…”

–Virginia Woolf

And for a head of school to write non-fiction? A funded two-week program and a room of her own!  Virginia Woolf famously wrote about being a woman writer in 1920s England and needing a Room of One’s Own for the purpose of writing, thinking, and making meaning of her world. It was, to some extent, a call to arms—

or pens—but it was a manifesto of sorts imploring women to stake their claim in the world, create their own identities, away from male writers, and write their world. My recent two weeks at the Klingenstein Center at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, felt a little like I had been given the enormous gift of a room of my own (at the Hotel Beacon) and the opportunity to read and think deeply, but also to debate furiously with other heads of school from Australia and Germany, Thailand and California, Colorado and South Carolina, Georgia and Washington State, Ohio and Maine. I spent time with seventeen heads of school, telling our stories and comparing our roles and our schools.

In class we read Montaigne’s education of philosophy in his essay entitled, “On Educating Children.” We read John Dewey and David Hansen. We visited three schools in the city and applied our philosophy readings to what we saw. We rode the subway, saw art at the Met, and watched Wicked on Broadway. This entire experience was funded through the generous support of the Klingenstein Center and, specifically, of the Klingenstein family, who have supported Independent School Leadership for over 25 years.

Back at the Beacon, I had homework, a room of my own, and the opportunity to be immersed in my studies and my thoughts about education. And Virginia Woolf would be happy to know I also had the opportunity to write my world and record my ideas. They were not always clear or concise, but they did create a breadcrumb trail of literature and research that netted one philosophy essay, a joint paper on 21st Century Schools, and my own research on Tuition Assistance at schools across the country. Indeed, having a room of one’s own is something I will replicate back at the Pink House. The ability to reflect and renew, away from the daily work of school, is the sure path to new ideas and a clear direction. I look forward to writing more about this singular experience.

About Kathleen McNamara Head's Up!

an educator in Independent Schools for over 28 years
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